by Lorette C. Luzajic
for Jose de la Cruz Mena (Nicaragua) 1874-1907
Mena, of Managua, and Leon, the old city falling to ruins at the mouth of Momotombo. Nicaragua’s volcano still sputters a century after the music died. Viva Mena! Long live Mena! his loyal audience shouted when his piano waltz took first prize at the Teatro Municipal. José de la Cruz Mena, the composer, was stranded outside the shutters as they played his Ruinas. All lepers were barred from the theatre. One small mercy from the Blessed Virgin: he had not been sent to the Aserradores island colony with the rest of the infected. It was a favor from the General, on behalf of his genius. All the waltzes, the masses, the folk songs, the requiems, the carols, the funeral marches, but he could no longer play El Nacatamal on his baritone horn. His limbs were already dissolving and he had been blind since turning twenty. Some of his work has been saved, but much was burned. They meant to purify the manuscripts of mycobacterium lepromatosis. For twelve years he could not play at his own conciertos, but how he labored at those scores: writing with fingers falling from his hands like dust, then tapping out the rhythm with the stubs that remained. He whistled the notes for a faithful friend to transcribe on his behalf. The music was tectonic. It burned him from inside: he had to find a way.
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Lorette C. Luzajic is an artist and writer from Toronto, Canada. Her flash fiction and prose poetry has been widely published, nominated for several Pushcarts and Best of the Net awards, longlisted and winner of writing contests, and translated into Urdu. She is the editor of The Ekphrastic Review, a journal devoted to writing inspired by visual art.